GREENVILLE, N.C. – For the second straight game, the ECU women’s soccer team dropped a tight overtime game, this time falling to Houston 3-2 on Thursday night in Johnson Stadium.
“The team is heart-broken and rightfully so,” said head coach Jason Hamilton. “To give away a two goal lead at home is nothing we ever expected.”
The day could not have started better for ECU as the Pirates took the lead just 19 seconds into the match. Tori Riggs broke free down the right wing and played a cross into the Houston box. Jenna Dages, at a full sprint, was the first to the cross and her header scored between the Houston goalkeeper and the near post.
Playing with the lead, ECU threatened to extend it during the first period. The Pirates took seven shots in the first half and had a few other opportunities where crosses just missed finding an ECU player. On the defensive end, ECU limited Houston to just three shots in the opening stanza.
After heading into the locker room with the 1-0 lead, ECU again attacked to start the second half. The pressure finally paid off in the 51st minute. Grace Doran took a corner kick and swung dangerous ball towards the penalty spot. Doran’s cross was met by Daria Draovitch who powered a header off the underside of the crossbar and into the goal.
Houston’s comeback started with a set piece of its own. In the 74th minute, the Cougars were awarded a free kick from just outside the top of the ECU box. Mia Brascia’s low effort got through the Pirate’s wall and beat ECU goalkeeper Melanie Stiles.
With ECU clinging to a 2-1 lead, Houston used a spectacular solo effort to tie the game. In the 82nd minute, Olivia Lee found space more than 30 yards from the Pirate goal and she used that space to let loose a long range effort. Lee’s effort sailed true and found the back of the net to tie the game.
“I have to take full responsibility for the loss,” Hamilton said. “We didn’t put our team in a good position to win the game once we went up 2-0. We became too defensive-minded and the game never left our half of the field.”
In the final 10 minutes of regulation, each team had chances to score before the game went to overtime. In both the 83rd and 86th minutes, Houston players were able to take shots from inside the ECU box, but each time Stiles denied them with point-blank saves. In the 88th minute, it looked like ECU had the game-winner when Dages rounded the Houston goalkeeper on a breakaway, but a Cougar defender got back in time to clear the shot away.
The game went to overtime, the second straight for both teams. The first ten minutes went by without a goal. Then, in the 103rd minute, Houston took advantage of another set piece. Natalie Anderson took the corner for the Cougars and she found Jazmin Grant who was able to score on a header to end the game.
ECU finished with a slight 17-15 edge in shots and an 8-4 advantage in corner kicks. Stiles finished with three saves for ECU while Rachel Estopare had five stops for Houston.
“Back to back overtime losses is tough,” added Hamilton. “To pour salt on the wound, we’ve lost a couple of players in each of those two games. We have to let it go and move on. We’ve got another game on Sunday and some of the younger players who have not played as much yet, will get the opportunity to step up and show us what they have.”
The Pirates will try to bounce back on Sunday afternoon when they host SMU. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m., in Johnson Stadium.